This first assignment, the CP, asks you to (1) research and deploy various types of sources to describe, contextualize, and analyze a significant contemporary political/social/cultural problem as it relates to videogames; (2) summarize and evaluate conversations and debates happening between credible scholars, thinkers, and organizations about your topic.
Together, the actions above comprise expository writing—the guiding method of this project—which means simply that with this first composition you are attempting to describe your project’s central problem and explain its relevance by contextualizing it.
Some questions that might help to direct your research include
What harm does the problem cause to individuals, communities, institutions, and/or ecologies?
Why does the problem exist? When and how did it develop? Do any individuals, communities, or institutions benefit from it?
Who is paying attention to and writing or speaking about the problem among journalists, politicians, scholars, other researchers, activists, governmental agencies, and/or industries?
An informed, authoritative writer understands their topic in context.
Context can be historical. Analyzing the past means grappling not simply with events, but with the issues and concerns of the time. It’s not enough to read a contemporary account of the past; we must also look at the work produced in the past—its political speeches, court decisions, and media. Therefore, one goal of this assignment is to learn about the historical contexts of your problem: the laws, legal precedents, and institutional practices that underlie its current form, and economic, social, political, and/or environmental trends that have shaped its development.
Context can also be rhetorical. We want to present the stakes that a given community has in the topic of our research, but we also want to interrogate the way those stakes get articulated by journalists, researchers, and politicians. Even within “scholarly writing,” you should become aware of how various communities (called disciplines) frame the same topic quite differently from one another. Identifying these relevant communities of thinkers and writers, analyzing their perspectives, and bringing their views together will help you gain a comprehensive understanding of your problem, and the authority that understanding entails.
As you research for your CP, you will concurrently develop a Working Annotated Bibliography for your entire project that involves summarizing and analyzing individual sources (your instructor will provide you with separate instructions for this portion of the assignment).
By the time you complete the CP, you should be able to:
- Develop effective research note-taking habits through source annotations.
- Practice information literacy in the research process by locating and critically evaluating relevant and credible evidence from a variety of sources and genres.
- Understand research as a part of the larger composition process of prewriting, drafting, and revision.
- Collaborate with fellow researchers to give and receive constructive feedback on the work in progress.
- Plan, draft and revise an essay with organization and style appropriate for addressing a general academic audience.
- Arrange and integrate evidence—primary-source, secondary-source, and multimodal—intentionally, with particular attention to its argumentative purpose and rhetorical effect.
- Integrate and cite evidence in a transparent and ethical manner, using a standard citation system. Learn how and why to avoid plagiarism and patch-writing.
Process work is required to be eligible to submit a final draft for a grade. This may include but is not limited to topic development exercises, a proposal or prospectus, and multiple essay drafts. Late or incomplete process work may result in a grade penalty on the final draft.
The contextualizing in the CP must be supported by a broad and varied selection of research, including primary and secondary sources, scholarship, journalism, advertising, policy papers, reports, case law, and other sources as appropriate for your topic. While both you and your instructor will work to determine an appropriate scope and variety of research for your essay, at a minimum it should draw evidence from 6-8 sources, including TWO scholars in conversation. Keep in mind that the total number of sources for the entire project’s bibliography is 15-20 sources.
Your final submission for Part One should be a 1500-2000 word multimodal (Links to an external site.) composition. It should be formatted in MLA style (Links to an external site.), with parenthetical citations, a Works Cited page, and a descriptive academic title.
You may be asking yourself (and you should ask your teacher), “What is a composition and what does it mean if it’s multi-modal?” In your case, you will locate at least two pieces of evidence, one from the present that helps you define the problem you are exploring and one from the past that deciphers this problem’s historical context. And then you will use credible sources to describe for your readers how these distinct pieces of evidence work together to explain the viability of the contemporary problem.
Draft 1 (Your teacher may ask for more drafts!)
(Written portion: 1500 minimum, multimodal, including notes and in-text citations but not bibliography.)
Your first attempt to write about your topic and your guiding questions will most likely be difficult. This statement of prospective claims is the first formal presentation of your knowledge about the topic and your understanding of the source material. Your primary purpose is to write something that will help further your understanding of your claims. Write your prospective statement in an experimental mindset, try to position this statement as one that captures your current understanding of your sources, your arguments, and the questions you are trying to answer. In other words, write something that will guide you as you craft, revise, and sharpen your questions and arguments.
Now that you have summarized and evaluated some of your sources in your Research Journal, I’d like you to write a short statement that explains what you know about the different facets and guiding factors of the problem you’ve chosen to look at.
Use some of the following prompts to structure a short essay explaining your prospective ideas for the CP. You do not have to answer every single prompt or give every prompt the same amount of attention — use them as loose guidelines for structuring your prospectus and beginning to deeply develop your thoughts on your topic. Your prospectus should be at least 500-700 words (not including your Works Cited) and needs to include at least 5 sources (at least 3 of which needs to be scholarly). It needs to be in formal academic language (although you’re free to use first-person pronouns), and should observe basic MLA formatting (Times New Roman, size 12, double-spaced, 1″ margins, with a proper MLA header). Include a Works Cited page to document all sources used in the prospectus and remember to cite your sources parenthetically within your essay.
- State your problem. As clearly and succinctly as possible, I’d like you to state the key problem that you’ve chosen to examine. I’d also like you to make this as specific as possible. For example, “Video games make children violent,” is clear, but also pretty vague. The statement “First-person military simulators are shown to discourage empathy and a sensitivity to violence in teenage males” gives me a much clearer picture of specifically what you’re going to be looking at in your paper.
On the other hand, if your problem is one that might be potentially solved by video games, you don’t necessarily have to mention video games as part of the problem statement. For example, if you want to look at ways that games can improve education, your problem statement might look something like “Current high school education models are too focused on testing and assessment and fail to adequately engage students outside of traditional methods.”
Remember that we’re not stating proposed solutions (yet!) — we’re just exploring all of the facets of a particular problem so that we can then propose a well-informed solution in our Advocacy Projects later in the quarter.
- State your guiding questions.What do you think are the most important questions you will need to address in your presentation of this problem? For example, if your problem is the one above regarding gun violence, what are the relevant questions we’ll need to ask about gun violence? What are we going to need to ask about the way these games are designed and marketed? What are we going to need to know about gun crimes in comparison to other violent teen crimes?
- Describe the historical aspects of your topic. What are the important events, cases, products, or arguments that will help us understand this problem as it exists now? What cases or ideas do your sources trace back in time to substantiate their arguments about the contemporary problems and questions at hand? Can you offer reasons for why the historical aspects are important? Show how the problem has developed over time in order to contextualize both its evolution up until the present and its relevance to the present.
- Identify and describe your historical and contemporary artifact/key evidence. Is it a videogame? A public event (i.e. the Columbine shooting, Congressional hearings about videogame violence and regulation, Gamergate, etc.)? Statistics, images, or graphs? Try to describe how your historical artifact/evidence speaks to your central problem in the present – summarize how they speak to your contemporary evidence, and explain how the historical dialogue between these two pieces connects the present to the past.
- Describe the different sides of this argument. Remember, you’re not trying to take a side just yet, but rather to present all sides of the argument. As such, it’s good to present the current solutions to this problem that different sides are proposing, but you want to try to show us allof the options that are out there, rather than just one. What solutions do your sources propose? Do your sources disagree with each other? How might they fit together to support various argumentative claims?